HOLIDAY season is upon us, and with the long summer break, there is more scope than normal, in this ‘global community’ we now live in, to have potential fallout from family disputes. The disputes often involve children, and cross borders, countries and continents, and our courts are increasingly asked to intervene in those international disputes. Almost certainly in cases with such international elements, the cases are heard in our High Court, by senior, specialist Judges.

As a family lawyer, I have seen a steady increase in the quantity and complexity of such cases. Often they involve children being made “Wards of Court”, where the child is placed under the protection of the court – usually High Court – under its historic ‘inherent jurisdiction’.

There have been a couple of recent interesting cases reported in the press.

The first case I will comment on is a landmark judgment in the High Court by Mr Justice Holman, who has directed that Amina Al-Jeffery, a 21-year-old British citizen who was born in Wales and who lived until she was 16 years old in Swansea, be returned from Saudi Arabia to England and Wales by her father, Mohammed Al-Jeffery, by September 11, 2016.

It was Amina's case that she was removed to Saudi Arabia by her family in April 2012 under the guise of a holiday. She learned at the airport that she was instead going to Saudi Arabia and she has not been permitted to return to this country.

The measures adopted by the father to keep her in Saudi Arabia included imprisoning her in his home. In order to achieve this, the father erected what he described as a 'barrier'. Amina described it as a 'cage'. Holman J found that whilst it was not a cage, she was deprived of her liberty.

Amina’s solicitor, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, a fellow Children Panel Lawyer, from London firm Dawson Cornwall stated after the hearing: "This is a landmark decision of Mr Justice Holman. It demonstrates the ability of the courts of England and Wales to make orders to protect British citizens who need help and rescue from situations of peril when abroad. Ultimately this decision demonstrates that the courts will take steps to protect the fundamental rights of British citizens, wherever in the world they may be.

"Our focus now must be to ensure that Amina is returned by September 11, 2016 as the judge has ordered."

Of the father, Mr Justice Holman said "this court has a considerable moral and practicable hold over him and we have no reason to assume he will not obey the order."

So we shall see no doubt whether Amina is returned by the September 11 deadline.

At the other end of the (childhood) age spectrum, there has been a case involving a 2 year old who was thought to be at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), and who has been returned to the UK from Guinea.

Mr Justice Moylan had heard that the father had abandoned the child in Guinea and returned to the UK himself with her passport. Concerns that the girl was due to be cut were first raised by her mother who had been subjected to FGM herself.

I understand that the Metropolitan police launched an investigation, and the family court in London made an FGM protection order and Dutch embassy staff arranged for the girl to be brought out of Guinea. The girl's circumstances will be considered further at a hearing in the family court in the near future.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Guinea has the second highest rate of FGM worldwide, after Somalia.

There will no doubt continue to be cases such as these two. With global travel and relationships being formed between people from different countries, and with global migration, they are inevitable. If you find yourself in the midst of an international dispute, do seek specialist legal advice. Often legal aid will be available, and in cases involving emergency assistance, for instance international child abduction cases, funding and assistance can be obtained not only through legal aid but often from the Home Office or from charities such as REUNITE, but speedy action is often essential.